To see a full playthrough of Mint Works, click here.
What is this game about?
Mint Works, designed by Justin Blaske, started out as a challenge to design a game that fits in a mint tin. Blaske was successful: Mint Works is a surprisingly meaty worker placement game that does in fact fit into a mint tin. In keeping with the theme, your "workers" are small, round "mints" that serve as both your workers and your money supply.
Your goal in Mint Works is to be the first to gain seven victory points. Victory points are gained by purchasing building plans and then constructing them in your neighborhood (i.e. player area). To take actions, you place mints from your mint supply on various location cards, but be careful—as with any worker placement game, there are only so many actions available, and everyone wants to take them. Plan ahead!
Mint Works has six main location cards, but each game varies depending on which neighborhood plans come from the draw deck. There are also a handful of "advanced locations" to give added strategic challenge to the game.
How does it play solo?
Mint Works comes with four AI players, each with a different set of rules and preferred building strategies. All of them present a challenge and can be infuriating in some way. Rachel causes mints to leave the game when she purchases plans for her neighborhood, and you lose the game if you run out of mints. Sonic takes two turns in a row, so you have to very aggressively go for the spaces you want in the game before he grabs them. Mort has endless money, so you can never starve him of mints to prevent his progress. And Justin, named after the game designer, blocks off entire locations when he uses them.
Each of these AI players represents an interesting puzzle to solve: What is the best way to play to give yourself the best chance of winning? Solo play in Mint Works is, however, a little bit swingy. To be sure of a win, you need to draw the right cards at the right time. Something may come out of that deck that totally messes you up, or you may not get cards that provide you with the advantages you need to win.
Mint Works is an impressive game in that it packs a big punch for its size. It is not the deepest or most complicated game in the world, but it's engaging, portable, and quick to play. I can't think of another worker placement game that offers all of those things. Mint Works may become a go-to game for me when I teach the concept of worker placement to newer gamers.
Thematically, Mint Works is aesthetically on point, but let's get real. This is a stripped-down worker placement game and it feels like one. There is no reason why mints should be connected to building a neighborhood, etc. etc. But that's not really the point—the point is that this is a fun little puzzle of a game that can come with you anywhere.
For solo play, the game is okay—there are more engaging solo experiences, although not with such a small footprint. I found the AI players to be interesting and challenging in the short term, but they aren't going to hold me for the long term.
Do I recommend it?
If you are looking for a quick, portable game and you like worker placement, then yes. Mint Works is a totally decent solo game for a more than decent price. The game is not currently in print. But according to the Kickstarter for Mint Works's successor, Mint Delivery, there will be a reprint soon and Mint Works will sell for about $13.
Overall Rating: 3 stars
5 - I love it!
4 - I really like it.
3 - I like it.
2 - It's okay.
1 - Meh.